MAN OF THE MO­MENT

One of the first to col­lab­o­rate with celebri­ties in cre­at­ing and en­dors­ing his à la mode col­lec­tions, busi­ness­man and brand be­he­moth Tommy Hil­figer con­tin­ues to en­sure his place in the Zeit­geist.

VOGUE Australia - - News - By Zara Wong.

Tommy Hil­figer con­tin­ues to en­sure his place in the Zeit­geist.

Asem­i­nal New York Times ar­ti­cle about red pants de­scribes them as uni­forms of Nan­tucket va­ca­tion­ers, or Bri­tish toffs. To il­lus­trate the story, there is a pho­to­graph of Tommy Hil­figer walk­ing down a run­way in his sig­na­ture red pants, wav­ing to the crowd – the kid from small-town Elmira made good, the one who plucked out el­e­ments of east-coast WASP, mix­ing it in with rock’n’roll (more ev­i­dence on that later) to con­coct his own unique brand of prep-pop. And now here he is for the Vogue in­ter­view on the Satur­day morn­ing fol­low­ing his New York fash­ion week run­way show, dressed in red pants with a white shirt and white sneak­ers, the very em­bod­i­ment of TH-of­fi­ci­ated week­end liv­ing.

Hil­figer him­self doesn’t iden­tify im­me­di­ately as a fash­ion de­signer, as he tells me him­self. “I’ve be­come more of a busi­ness­man, be­cause I’m re­ally over­see­ing more than just the cre­ative side.” In his mem­oir Amer­i­can Dreamer, he writes of knock­ing on the doors of New York’s Gar­ment Dis­trict look­ing for a fash­ion de­sign job, only to be re­jected for a lack of de­sign back­ground and cre­den­tials. Hav­ing never ob­tained a de­gree in de­sign, his skills lay in mer­chan­dis­ing and re­tail­ing.

In a then con­tro­ver­sial move, Hil­figer un­veiled a bill­board ad­ver­tise­ment in 1986 for his newly formed brand, in which he com­pared him­self to the great de­sign­ers of the era: Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Perry El­lis. “This was a wildly au­da­cious op­por­tu­nity to jump the line,” re­calls Hil­figer in his mem­oir – the bill­board ad “def­i­nitely jet-pro­pelled” the la­bel’s mo­men­tum. But here, 30 years on, is what he wants to talk about. “This, right now, is re­ally the most dra­matic, ex­cit­ing time,” he says. “There’s the buy-now-wear-now, the pres­ence of so­cial me­dia, and the con­sumer wants im­me­di­ate grat­i­fi­ca­tion – they want the ex­pe­ri­ences and they want the fash­ion now.”

He’s re­fer­ring to his run­way show, which pre­sented a col­lec­tion that was avail­able for pur­chase im­me­di­ately, rather than be­ing avail­able in stores as much as six months later. “The big­gest changes have been get­ting peo­ple to keep up,” he says. “Within the com­pany, out­side, retailers – ev­ery­body. But we strongly be­lieve that we need to lead this charge, and change.” Hil­figer also ap­pointed Gigi Ha­did as a de­sign col­lab­o­ra­tor. “She’s an iconic pop-cul­ture fig­ure­head,” he says of his de­ci­sion to open up the de­sign studio to her. Pop cul­ture and celebrity prog­eny has

“YOU NEED CON­TENT THAT’S EN­TER­TAIN­MENT-BASED SO THE CON­SUMER COMES TO YOUR SITE AND STAYS THERE”

long been in­grained in the weave of TH. In 1995 he ap­pointed Ki­dada Jones, daugh­ter of Quincy Jones, as part of his cre­ative team, task­ing her to help with the de­sign and styling of his cam­paigns – in­clud­ing one where she en­listed her friends, Aaliyah and a then un­known Kate Hud­son to star along­side her. Later, celebri­ties like Brit­ney Spears, Bey­oncé and Usher were se­lected to front cam­paigns. “When we started us­ing celebri­ties in our ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing no­body else was do­ing that. And our mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing peo­ple, said: ‘What?’” he says, laugh­ing at the mem­ory.

Ha­did had led the charge at the run­way show in front of 2,000 guests, back­dropped to a TH-themed carnival of fair­ground rides, food stalls of lob­ster rolls and pizza, ar­cade games and more. “We want ri­ots! We want food, we want vin­tage shops, tat­too par­lours – peo­ple may think we’re a lit­tle crazy do­ing that, but I re­ally be­lieve in be­ing ahead of the curve.” Hil­figer is fas­ci­nated by the TH ex­pe­ri­ence – the carnival was left open on the week­end to the public, and our con­ver­sa­tion even­tu­ally moves into tech­nol­ogy, which re­ally gets him go­ing. He re­minds me of the la­bel part­ner­ing with Face­book and Snapchat for the run­way show ex­trav­a­ganza.

“In China, over 60 per cent of con­sumers un­der 30 years are shop­ping via mo­bile app – so that tells me some­thing,” he in­forms me. “But you need more than just clothes on your site or on your app; you need con­tent that’s en­ter­tain­ment-based so the con­sumer comes to your site and stays there, so ven­tur­ing into the en­ter­tain­ment world is im­por­tant.” But for his im­mi­nent plans? He an­swers tri­umphantly. “Ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence,” he be­gins, ex­pand­ing on to tell me how TH will soon in­cor­po­rate ma­chine­learn­ing and big data to pre­dict con­sumer be­hav­iour. Be­yond fash­ion, he’s also re­cently bought the iconic art deco Miami ho­tel the Raleigh. He and his wife plan to trans­form it into a pri­vate club and ex­pand the con­cept in­ter­na­tion­ally. “I see beauty in de­sign. Whether it’s a chair, or a shirt.” Or, an en­tire brand.

Tommy Hil­figer and Gigi Ha­did with mod­els in his de­signs.

Tommy Hil­figer’s carnival from above. The en­trance to the fash­ion show. Hil­figer and Ha­did on the run­way. Mod­els in Tommy Hil­figer au­tumn/win­ter ’16/’17. Tay­lor Swift was front row. Show notes on the seats Gigi Ha­did and Tommy Hil­figer at the run­way fi­nale. Pieces from the Tommy Hil­figer au­tumn/win­ter ’16/’17 col­lec­tion.

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